Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What motivates IT professionals?

In my practice as a programmer I've come across some interesting people. A lot of my friends and co-workers of course are programmers, designers, network administrators. I is quite fascinating to look from a objective position on everyone and watch what motivates them the most. I've seen a few separate types of things that motivate people around. Here are a few person types I could distinguish:

  1. The Banker - Money is the most obvious reason to go to work every day, but not the only, and for many people not the main motivator. Bankers tend to work better given small raises/bonuses now and then, and they are absolutely not to argue with if they want a get-or-leave-raise. The words "either I get a raise in pay or I'll leave" are dead serious with this kind of people, they most probably already found a new employer and just want to give you a last chance to hold them in your company.
  2. The Creator - this part of the motivation pie is a pretty big piece in most of my programmer friends. The Creator creates stuff just to see it work ( to see it being used is IMHO something else ). People who are motivated by creating can write something that was written a lot of times and try to make it better every time. This is pretty much the "easiest" employee to keep happy, a creator type just needs a computer and most often someone to participate and share ideas with.
  3. The Innovator- now innovation is seen pretty often among IT workers. The Innovator absolutely hates having people to him/her to make another message board or log in form. He/She like a cat wanting to go his/hers own ways. They thrive on new and interesting endeavours and ideas. Now that's a great thing, but people with this quality tend to produce unstable, poorly maintainable solutions, so they can work on another interesting thing. When you have an enough innovative field in IT, you can easily hold the innovator employee, given that he has a choice to go somewhere with a little better pay but a boring business profile.
  4. The Egoist - over the time I've seen many people thrilled by the idea that something they create will be used by a large number of people and/or his/hers friends. I think that an Egoist is a Creator that does it just for a different reason.The Egoist is very hard to keep happy. Statistically I can just say that most graphics designers, artists basically, are the egoist type. People with that quality tend to work much harder and better given the right amount of "ego steroids" like ensuring they are the best people for the job or that their work will be most certainly recognised by many people.
Here is the place where the "worker-key-system" comes in. Try to imagine a IT professional as a kind of a small piano keyboard and his/hers employer as the player like in the picture (the employer being the rat ;-) ) 

[image source:]

Now what you want to do as the boss, is to play a good and robust song, or to make a good and robust program with the least amount of spending. This keyboard is a very funny instrument. It already knows some songs, but it won't make absolutely no sound when stricken in the wrong key, and will eventually break if you won't strike the right key with the right force, and produce the same song if you strike the right keys with more force that they need.
Leaving all metaphors, only a good project manager can ensure the right amount of money, creation, innovation and ego by hiring the right people and balancing out the proportions to make a great product with the least amount of money. If your project is another CMS like millions out there, don't hire innovators, the surely aren't the right people for the job, because they'll get bored and leave for a more interesting position. If you are creating a start-up, don't hire bankers, they are very good at what they do, but they will leave your project when given the first opportunity to get more money. There surely are many more aspects to take in account but in my opinion these are the main things that drive IT specialists to work better, harder and enjoy their work more, thus generating many good ideas and products for your company.

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